Author: Kim Kenyon, QAR Conservator
On July 25, 1718,* Woodes Rogers arrived in the Bahamas as the islands’ first appointed Royal Governor. Piracy grew rampant in the untamed colony, and Rogers’ official mission was to stamp it out. He first tried diplomacy, armed with another round of pardons for pirates willing to peacefully surrender their criminal ways.
Rogers was met with a fiery welcome, courtesy of pirate Charles Vane. Vane’s message to Rogers was unmistakable. Vane set his prize ship ablaze in the harbor, blocking the new governor’s passage and allowing the pirate to escape into the night. He would accept no pardon. Another pirate took a different course. Once Rogers reached the shore, Benjamin Hornigold welcomed him with an honor guard formed of hundreds of reformed pirates. In accepting the royal pardon, Hornigold would become one of Rogers’ most trusted and successful enforcers. Just three weeks following Blackbeard’s death in November 1718, Rogers condemned and executed 10 convicted pirates, sending a clear message that the Bahamas was no longer a safe haven.
Rogers’ stalwart stance against the criminal element in the Caribbean paved the way for the downfall of the Golden Age of Piracy. In 1718, there may have been up to 2000 active pirates sailing the seas. By 1726, there were fewer than 200. By eliminating the Bahamas as an operational base, pirates were forced to disperse. Rogers' actions compelled his fellow governors, like Charles Eden and Alexander Spotswood, to make a stand.
*There is no consensus on the exact date.
-Cordingly, David. Pirate Hunter of the Caribbean. New York: Random House. 2011.
-Konstam, Angus. Blackbeard: America’s Most Notorious Pirate. Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 2006.